Archive | January 2009

Snow Where It Doesn’t Usually Snow

 Bees snuggled safely inside their hive.

Living in southwest Washington we get hardly any snow. We had a snowstorm about 5-6 years ago and spent an afternoon sliding down our pasture hill on scraps of old cardboard, so when Joseph saw a toboggan for sale a few years ago, he snatched it right up in case we’d ever be visited again by snowflakes. 

We originally come from New England where snow falls from October to April and though we don’t miss blizzards one bit, when we had a few inches of a snowstorm all those years ago, we did wish we had a good sled on hand.

That toboggan sat unused for all those years until just before Christmas when an arctic wind visited and over a week’s time dumped about ten inches on us. As you can see the farm looked peaceful and beautiful. What you don’t see is how we ran around the day before the storm — when it was still a balmy 54 degrees — covering all our garden beds with row covers, tarps and cold frame boxes.

It got so cold last week that much of our winter garden gave up and decided to become mulching material for spring. Nonetheless some hardy plants survived:  brussel sprouts, kale, red cabbage and the parsley that lives in the coldframe. Also everything underground did just fine, all the potatoes, sunchokes and even a few onions. It amazes me how some plants, even in freezing cold temperatures just say, “Brrr…,” then shake the ice off their leaves in the next melt and continue growing. Isn’t nature wonderful?

Our hens completely refused to set one bony foot on snow. They stayed inside the coop or wandered out under the roofed area to eat from their feeders but nary a chicken track appeared in the snow.

  Joseph walking up to the chicken coop with Remy.

We’ve been keeping our cows in our neighbors’ pasture just up the hill. Normally we milk our cow in an outside stanchion all winter. Hardy souls that we are, if it’s raining we wear a rain hat. But our neighbor’s barn has inside stanchions and I have to tell you, in the freezing cold snap, I sure was happy to be inside and milking. Not that it was warm by any means, but we at least were out of the wind and snow flurries.

When I milk our cow, no matter how cold the air is, if my fingers are on her warm udder and my head is resting on her furry side as she eats hay, I feel warm. Soon as I stop, even with long underwear on, the air immediately feels bone chillingly cold again. 

Marcus and Shari had a grand time chasing each other all over creation in their first snow!

Normally we make the seven minute walk up to the barn with our hot water jugs twice each day to feed and milk. If it’s a dark and rainy night, however, we’re not above driving the car up to stay dry. But snow isn’t the same as rain and who wants to drive uphill in snow and risk getting stuck? 

Joseph finally had an opportunity to put that dusty toboggan to work. He suggested it would be a good way to carry our heavy hot water jugs up there so we bundled the bottles in a cloth bag and tied them on. Off we trundled with the toboggan dragging behind us. It was a lot easier to walk through the deep and icy snow with the toboggan carrying the heavy bottles.

But the best part was after we finished our cow care tasks and walked out of the barn into the fresh snow drifts. Joseph sat down in front so he could steer and with one milk jug under each arm I snuggled myself behind him. Speedily we sailed down the hill, coasted at a fair clip across the straightaway and then picked up speed as we yelled and hollered across our field, past the greenhouse and sledded down the path to home.

A few nights later the rain returned and overnight we went back to winter drizzle and green grass. Tomorrow’s supposed to be 50-something and sunny so I’m thinking it will be a good day to get started on pruning the fruit trees. Hope you’re staying warm this winter.

Jacqueilne & Joseph

Friendly Haven Rise Farm

Venersborg, WA

This entry was posted on January 13, 2009, in Farm Life.

The Art of Bee-ing

Wherein I give a complete accounting of a day I made a series of bee mistakes and the little bees made sure I learned how not to screw up so badly again …

Every summer at our county fair I put in a few hours at the bee house. We bee folk have our own little house set away from the rest of the fair. You have to walk a ways to find us but we always get a good crowd who come to see the bees.

The house is divided into two rooms: One has bee info, displays, blue ribbon honey and empty hives from different bee-ish beings. The other room is a wire enclosed 10×10 area with a live hive of bees flying about.

Every hour a volunteer goes over and gives a talk about bees while standing in the bee cage. Most volunteers wear the bee suit but because I want people to know how gentle bees are, I do my talk without protection. Inevitably someone asks how that is possible. I explain that bees have little desire to harm anyone, that they only sting when they fear they or the hive are about to be hurt. I also tell them I have only been stung three times in my life, each an accidental sting when a worker bee got tangled in my hair or clothing and, thinking she was trapped, stung me. No harm meant, just a scared little bee.

The first year I did the demos I noticed dozens of scout bees on the screen trying to get to the clover field across the street. It was early August and though they were only a whiff away from a field of nectar-filled blossoms, they couldn’t get out to collect anything.

I felt their frustration so I walked down to the flower show and asked what flowers were being tossed that day. I came back with armloads of bouquets in jars which I put inside the cage. I immediately felt the bees relax. Bees need to be around flowers! After that every demo was delightful. Happy bees buzzing flower to flower, showing onlookers how we all get along.

The next year I worked the fair I got paired with an outspoken old guy who is my direct opposite politically. While the bee booth is not, in my opinion, the right place to spout one’s pro-war opinions, that’s what he spent his time doing. So I was a teensy bit on edge (understatement). I brought this up a few times but he was oblivious and went on blathering about his political views. (With no good intentions I made a small note to self: “Do not tell him his fly is unzipped,” and stuck to that.)

True bee work requires a kind, loving heartspace. I love bees and this place of ‘bee-ing’ is totally natural to me. When I approach bees in this space, it becomes obvious how life-affirming, generous and fulfilling the bee community is.

When it was my turn to go into the bee cage for the demo, I was not in a heartspace, not even close. I opened up the airlock to the bee cage and WHAM! I got stung right on the top of my head.

I stepped back out of the airlock, untangled the little bee from my hair. I had already pumped a bit of snittiness into my system before I got stung and I was surprised at the adrenaline the sting evoked in me.

I shook it off, took a deep breath, walked back in. WHAM! again, stung on the very tip top of my head, on the exact same place, my crown chakra, the side of me that points to the heavens although I certainly did not have heavenly thoughts emanating from within.

I stepped out of the cage again and this time one bee came outside to have a talk with me. She assertively buzzed me and in no uncertain terms told me not to set foot in their home until I worked out my “stuff” and bettered my attitude.

Okay, I can take a hint.

Receiving not one but TWO stings in the exact same spot was not lost on me. I admit I had very little cosmic consciousness going on when I reached for the door to go inside the hive room. I was still re-playing, “I should have said …” and quite focused on how wrong this guy was in every way.

Luckily my shift was nearly up. Proving I am not yet an enlightened being, I still had dialogue going around in my head as I drove home and I was none too pleased about getting stung twice. Once home I changed my clothes and decided it would be a good idea to visit with MY bees and calm everything down.

I walked barefoot through the field toward a hive and WHAM! I stepped on a little bee who stung me in the very center of my foot, on Kidney1 point (Bubbling Spring), the very first acupuncture point that forms in the fetus and the one that helps you ground, connect with the earth, the one that roots energy downward.

I sat down on the ground and scraped the stinger out, apologized to the honey bee for stepping on her (and felt terrible that I’d done that). I told her her gift wasn’t in vain, that I’d sit right there and go over my day and let go of whatever crap I was carrying around that was making me bad bee company.

Three stings in one day doubled my entire life sting count at once. Getting stung on the very top and bottom of my body was none too subtle. I had throbbing focus points showing me precisely where my energy connects with the heavens and the earth.

So I sat there and apologized to everyone I’d labeled harshly, had miserly thoughts about, or offended (including my higher self) by being such a knucklehead. And when I felt I could be a better person I got up and went on with my day.

I did notice that as a result of having all that bee sting formic acid into me, I felt ‘buzzed’ and very aware of ALL of my body, like breathing through my skin instead of just my nose. Having a front row seat to an important lesson in selflessness taught by bees caught my attention and I flitted around in a buzzingly happy state for quite some time.

Little bees, bridging the union of heaven and earth.


If you’d like to attend one of our bee classes and learn organic and biodynamic approaches to bees, visit our classes page:

Click Here — Classes at Friendly Haven Rise Farm

Friendly Haven Rise Farm
Venersborg, WA

This entry was posted on January 5, 2009, in Bees.